Disciplined, Focused Cold Calling

My first real business job was with a commercial real estate broker in Calgary in the mid ’80s; brokers then were given a desk, a telephone and a telephone book and told to get after it.  They were also encouraged to walk door-to-to through downtown Calgary, trying to drum up interest in office space, often getting thrown out of buildings.

Things have changed since then, however no matter what the social CRM folks tell you, the sales team of an early stage B2B company should engage in a systematic, disciplined and focused cold calling program to reach potential customers.

Now, this is not your mothers cold calling, say like what you saw in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross (one of my favorites and referred to in other blog posts) or what Charlie Sheen undertook in the original Wall Street.

Insanely Inefficient

Cold calling is insanely inefficient and very hard work: if more than 1 out of 50 prospects turns into anything meaningful y0u are doing exceptionally well.  But it is important to do for a number of reasons:

  1. You may land a sale
  2. You will pick up invaluable market intelligence
  3. Your sales team will learn what pitches work and where you will get traction

You can do a number of things to increase the odds (to, say, 1 out of 25) of generating warm leads through cold calling, as noted below.

Focus.  Better to call 25 well qualified prospects than scattershot across fifty.  Identify tow to four prospects whose titles align with your offering and are senior within the target organization.  But these should not be so senior that you will never make a live connection.

Prepare.  This can be as simple as a quick look at the prospect’s LinkedIn profile and at his company web site.  You don’t want to lose momentum doing this but you want to catch anything obvious that may affect how you make your approach.

Craft a Tight, Short Email.  Make your email very, very sh0rt – no more than 3 sentences and a couple of bullet points.  The subject line should make it clear what it is you want to talk about and be easy to find using Outlook’s abysmal search functionality.  Your intro pitch by phone should map to to your email.

Use Voicmail and Email Assiduously.  Now, start calling.  Send an email to the prospect and make a call, leaving him a short crisp Voicemail.  The next day, trying to catch him live and do not leave a message.  Repeat.  On the third day send the email and leave a voicemail.  repeat this process for up to a two week period.  Really.

Persist.  Cold calling is about polite, professional persistence; you may connect with a prospect only after 1.5 – 2.0 weeks of calling.  At some point, you do have to throw in the towel but you should never do this with less than three emails and nine calls.

Be Respectful.  Your email, voicemail and pitch should be brief, positive, without too much spin and look to the prospect for his opinion and/or advice.  Your sparkling personality, brio and amazing value proposition is unlikely to change anyone’s mind in a 2 minute call, so do no expect it to.  If you get brushed off, press for details and/or guidance but only within the realm of what is professional.

Continually Qualify.  As you work your prospects you will develop a picture of what what state a target organization is in and what the appropriate next steps are, which y0u should be pushing for.

Track Your Activities.  Knowing what progress you have made with a target organization may be very helpful to your team long after your remember your specific activities, so keep track of what you are up to.


  1. Great insight, as clear and concise as your efforts should be!

  2. “this is gold”

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